Maybe if he didn’t have that God com­plex, he wouldn’t be in the po­si­tion he is to­day

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - A DUBLIN CHILD­HOOD AN IN­STA­GRAM STAR @john­meagher­muso

he told lead­ing MMA jour­nal­ist Ariel Hel­wani that he chose the name as it was a re­minder of a life he never wanted to re­turn to.

Born in July 1988, a cou­ple of weeks af­ter Ire­land’s in­volve­ment in the Euro­pean Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship, McGre­gor was the third of Tony and Mar­garet’s three chil­dren. Erin and Aoife had ar­rived first.

He was small in stature, but ex­cel­lent at sport — par­tic­u­larly foot­ball. Like many boys from Crum­lin, he grav­i­tated to­wards the box­ing club and soon found he had a nat­u­ral tal­ent.

And yet, McGre­gor has of­ten spo­ken about the hard knocks that pock­marked his teen years, of be­ing bul­lied oc­ca­sion­ally and hav­ing to fend for him­self in street fights. Many who know him also talk about his sense of dis­ori­en­ta­tion when the fam­ily re­lo­cated to Lu­can, in west Dublin, when he was 17.

He went through the gaelscoil sys­tem — first in Tal­laght and then at Coláiste Cois Life in Lu­can — but his Ir­ish was de­cid­edly rusty when asked a ques­tion as Gaeilge by a TG4 re­porter a cou­ple of years ago.

A turn­ing point came when he met Tom Egan, an MMA fighter from Kil­dare who was try­ing to make his name in the then mod­est world of UFC in the late 2000s. Egan helped reignite a pas­sion in McGre­gor for com­bat sports and he was soon train­ing in the Straight Blast Gym founded by John Ka­vanagh, who has been his coach for many years.

In Ka­vanagh, McGre­gor found a fig­ure who truly be­lieved in his abil­i­ties and the pair have been in­sep­a­ra­ble since, al­though there’s a re­mark­able gulf in tem­per­a­ment be­tween the cool, con­sid­ered and soft-spo­ken ‘Coach Ka­vanagh’ and the hot-headed, rant­ing foul-mouthed McGre­gor we have seen of late.

Since his ear­li­est days in UFC, McGre­gor has di­vided opin­ion, but the for and against camps have be­come even more po­larised in the run up to this fight. McGre­gor was roundly crit­i­cised for his be­hav­iour at four press con­fer­ences to pro­mote the May­weather bout. He was ac­cused of racist re­marks to­wards his op­po­nent and for cor­ro­sive lan­guage where the word ‘bitch’ fea­tured strongly.

And it’s not the first time he has been crit­i­cised for the man­ner with which he ver­bally abused op­po­nents. This is a fighter who re­ferred to the Ger­man chal­lenger, Dennis Siver, as a Nazi and who goaded Brazil­ian fighter José Aldo in his home coun­try. “I own this town, I own Rio de Janeiro, so for him to say that he is the king and I am the joker, if this was a dif­fer­ent time, I would in­vade his favela on horse­back, and would kill any­one who wasn’t fit to work, but we’re in a new time, so I’ll whoop his ass in­stead.”

It’s that sort of talk that has made McGre­gor an un­savoury fig­ure for many, in­clud­ing some of those who re­side in Crum­lin. “I think he’s a ter­ri­ble role model for young boys,” says one lady on St Agnes Road. “His lan­guage is dis­grace­ful and you’d think he’d watch his mouth now that he has a baby of his own.”

Her friend is of sim­i­lar mind. “There’s a lot of hard­ship in this part of Dublin and in [neigh­bour­ing] Drim­nagh and Walkin­stown, but has he done any­thing with all his money to help the hav­ing to en­gage with the press in a way that most of his peers have to — and it demon­strates a de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­hance the Conor McGre­gor brand out­side of the oc­tagon/ring. It’s thought this most dap­per of dressers will launch his own cloth­ing line in the next year.

De­spite the sta­dium-sized at­ti­tude, McGre­gor is said to have kept his feet on the ground thanks to the sup­port of a small group of peo­ple. Girl­friend Dee Devlin has been by his side for the past decade and the cou­ple have a three-month old son, Conor Jr. Be­sides John Ka­vanagh, he’s close to sev­eral mem­bers of Ire­land’s close-knit MMA com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing ex-pro Ais­ling Daly. And he re­tains a hand­ful of friends from his boy­hood in Crum­lin.

There has been con­tro­versy about friend­ships with mem­bers of one of Dublin’s most no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nal gangs. “Ki­na­han car­tel thugs en­joy high life with champ McGre­gor”, read a Sun­day World head­line last year, and fea­tured a photo of the fighter and an uniden­ti­fied gangland fig­ure stand­ing proudly on the bon­nets of a pair of ex­pen­sive cars.

The same pa­per also re­ported ear­lier this year that his sis­ter Aoife mar­ried Mark El­liott, an ex-con­vict who was im­pris­oned for three years af­ter be­ing caught in pos­ses­sion of a huge cannabis stash for sale and sup­ply.

There is no sug­ges­tion, how­ever, that Conor McGre­gor — or any mem­ber of his fam­ily — has been en­gaged in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

If the past five years have felt like a whirl­wind to the Dubliner and all who know him, it’s im­pos­si­ble to say what the next five have in store. But Dana White, the all-pow­er­ful UFC Pres­i­dent, be­lieves McGre­gor’s po­ten­tial is as bound­less as his con­fi­dence: “If you look at this thing and you look at how big this fight is and you look at how big these ath­letes are that are in­volved in this fight… if Conor does knock Floyd May­weather out, he’s the big­gest ath­lete on earth.”

And Rhonda Byrne — and her much ma­ligned, but enor­mously pop­u­lar, book — will have played their part.

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